Do sexist men like bigger breasts?

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Photo: Getty Images

Remember the personality quizzes that ask you things like, "What does your favourite deodorant say about you?" Researchers from the University of Westminster have recently completed a study of 361 men that sounds deceptively like a lad’s mag quiz, the topic being, "What does your breast size preference say about you?"  

The study, which was published in the February issue of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, analysed the impact of men’s “oppressive beliefs” and how they influence the way they perceive female beauty ideals – specifically, female breast sizes.  

According to The Huffington Post, a group of British white males between the age of 18 to 68 were shown a video of five computer-generated 3-D female models – from the flat-chested to the well-endowed. They were then asked to rate the figure that they found most physically attractive and complete a survey that assessed their sexist attitudes and tendency to objectify women.

Each participant had to answer questions based on four separate scales: their hostility towards women, attitude towards male and female relationships, objectification of women and ‘benevolent sexism’ – a term that essentially describes the belief that women are the ‘fairer’ (but weaker) sex.

The study found that the largest percentage of men (32.7%) found medium-sized breasts to be the most attractive, followed by large (24.4%) and very large (19.1%) breasts. Younger men were also more likely to rate busty women as more attractive.

Not surprised? Well, these figures don't tell the full story. Turns out, the findings also revealed that the more sexist a man is, the more likely he’ll be drawn to women with bigger breasts.

More significantly, ‘benevolent sexism’ was found to be the strongest predictor for breast size rating – overshadowing factors like sexual objectification and hostility towards women. Study co-author Viren Swami explains: “Benevolently sexist men may perceive larger breasts as ‘‘appropriate’’ for feminine women; in other words ... a feminine and submissive woman is likely to be someone with large breasts.”

Ironically, this means it’s the ‘nice guys’ who pride themselves in holding open car doors, offer to pay for dinners and believe ladies are to be ‘admired’ and ‘put on a pedestal’ who are most likely to buy into traditional beauty ideals – like having a ‘feminine figure’ in this case.

“It has been proposed that men’s greater endorsement of oppressive beliefs are associated with a preference for traditional, feminine beauty ideals, particularly those that are difficult to attain or that require constant work on the body,” writes Swami.

So why is this problematic? Swami believes that emphasis on physical attractiveness is used by male-dominated societies to “ensure that women’s attention is shifted away from their real competencies and toward superficial aspects associated with their appearance.”

Though manifested in a much more subtle way, women with the desired physical assets – if you will –  are essentially 'coaxed and flattered' into accepting oppressive gender roles. Since those with traditional feminine traits are rewarded socially for their conformity, they are more likely to succumb to self-objectification – often at the cost of not being treated as an equal at work or at home.

Witness this Wonderbra ad flashback:

http://images.dailylife.com.au/2013/03/11/4100601/wonderbra-cook.jpg?rand=1362981858638

As feminist scholar Susan Sontag argues in her essay, “Women's Beauty”, in a world where women are already taught to see their bodies in parts and encouraged to scrutinise each part separately, “what is accepted by most women as a flattering idealisation of their sex is a way of making women feel inferior to what they actually are.”

The results from Swami’s study are significant not just because it highlights how sexist attitudes can influence the way physical beauty is judged, but also because of the fact that it continues to be normalised by unsuspecting men and women. Being attracted to women with big breasts doesn’t automatically make someone sexist – but it’s a good litmus for our obsession with policing female appearance – ‘nice guys’ included.

12 comments

  • I don't buy it. At most, I think that the older men have seen what gravity does to larger breasts over time and are saying "those mid-sized models hold up well for the long haul." I would want to see exactly how that survey was set up before I accept its results. I think you can prove people believe just about anything if you set the survey up correctly...

    I think that there are plenty of sexist men who prefer a nice butt to big breasts, great legs to a nice butt, etc. etc. And then there are nice, normal guys who also prefer a nice butt to big breasts, great legs to a nice butt, etc. etc. The laws of attraction aren't so neat and tidy.

    Commenter
    TK
    Date and time
    March 12, 2013, 9:15AM
    • Do Sexist Men Like Bigger Breasts?

      Do Men Like Bigger Breasts?

      Do Men Like Breasts?

      Men Like Breasts

      Breasts

      Think you could have summised the heading and article into 1 word.

      Proud Breast Lover

      Commenter
      Proud Breast Lover
      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 9:28AM
      • As a man it's very hard to comment on breasts per se except to say I'm in favour.

        Re oppressive beliefs; I long for the day where there are none - in terms of gender, race, disability, age and so on. What has struck me as I look at my little kids in pre-school and school, and now high school is how beliefs (oppressive or otherwise) come from parents. We as parents have the power to change the beliefs of the next generation.

        Second thought. I've seen the difference in multi-cultural awareness in our inner city schools (little to no racism that I'm aware of) and I've seen the difference of co-ed vs single sex. The co-ed relationships my daughter has in one school vs in the new co-ed school are very different - they're relaxed with each other, they're respectful and they seem to enjoy each other's company for personality reasons. All of which is to say the more we push each other together and understand each other more, the more we get on.

        Commenter
        Chairman Miaow
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        March 12, 2013, 9:48AM
        • There is a suggestion here that men "fool" us silly women into concentrating on being busty sex toys instead of getting on with business, while I would argue that many, if not most women, are very complicit in this process as they compete for male attention. I find a lot of these conversations remove heterosexual female desire for male attention, and the competition between women for male attention, as a motivating factor for adhering to beauty stereotypes.

          Commenter
          missminute
          Date and time
          March 12, 2013, 9:56AM
          • Makes sense to me. As a woman I have observed fellow men who carry on this way. It would be interesting to replicate the study in other cultures who may not be as fixated on the breasts as western culture is.

            Commenter
            Fernandes
            Location
            Brisbane
            Date and time
            March 12, 2013, 10:02AM
            • I don't buy it either. The range of what men and women find attractive is wide and varied. To state you like to look at women's .... so therfore you are a .... is too simplistic. Sometimes it is a woman's face that gets me, sometimes it's her figure, sometimes it's a smile and they are all initial things that lead you to find out more and then hopefully find even more things you find attractive. People look at people, always have and always will.

              Commenter
              2shoes
              Date and time
              March 12, 2013, 10:05AM
              • "According to The Huffington Post, a group of British white males between the age of 18 to 68 were shown a video of five computer-generated 3-D female models..."

                Well, there's a wide-ranging and comprehensive study that can be seamlessly extrapolated to represent the views and attitudes of all western men everywhere....

                Side note: didn't I read a story hereabouts not too long ago strongly criticising those who judged other people's physical preferences in choosing a partner?

                Commenter
                DM
                Date and time
                March 12, 2013, 10:06AM
                • The Huffington Post article did a better job of describing the article and explaining why only white males were chosen, which was that ethnicity has been shown to impact how individuals perceive breast size. I mean obviously it is still the case that extrapolating from a group of just 361 British males and extending it worldwide across all men is pretty flawed, but that's the fault of the author rather than those conducting the study. Never let the fact that a study is non representative get in the way of stereotyping men though.

                  Commenter
                  Hurrow
                  Date and time
                  March 12, 2013, 10:44AM
              • So do women who get breast enhancement prefer sexist men?
                Interesting

                Commenter
                Jeromey
                Date and time
                March 12, 2013, 10:21AM
                • I tend to find that women pressure each other to look good more often than men pressure women.

                  I can't help but think the methodology was slightly flawed, as it attempts to extrapolate social attitudes from subconscious biological triggers. I'd like to see the questionaire at any rate.

                  Commenter
                  Modern Primitive
                  Location
                  Brisbane
                  Date and time
                  March 12, 2013, 10:24AM

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